Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Three origin stories
origin stories
thuviaptarth
giandujakiss has additional commentary here.

I've been so happy and excited about the responses to "Origin Stories," I can't even tell you. One of the best parts has been people making interpretations or extending the critique in ways I never imagined, but which nevertheless seem validated by both the vid and its source texts--people starting with giandujakiss, but not ending there. So this isn't an "explanation" of the vid, which for better or worse has to explain itself, and it isn't meant as a definitive guide to interpretation (I don't believe in definitive interpretations); as long as it is, it isn't even everything I could say about what I meant or what I wanted or what I love about the vid giandujakiss made.

And, as GK says, none of this is meant to override or take the place of any other interpretations, and it's not meant to be necessary to understand the vid. It is more a concession to my vanity than anything else. Feel free to skip over it.

1. The story of the coat
I had the line "It's Nikki Wood's fucking coat" long before I had a song or a vidder or a title.

Spike wears the long black duster from his first appearance on Buffy, but we only find out its history in S5's "Fool for Love." Spike relates his history to Buffy (in, it's strongly implied, somewhat unreliable terms) and the viewers see how he came to adopt his Johnny Rotten persona in a series of flashbacks. Spike starts out as a young aesthete in Victorian London; after his romantic overture is rejected by the woman he's in love with, he accepts vamping by Drusilla. Once turned, he adopts a tough, lower-class persona, which reaches full expression once he kills a Slayer during the Boxer Rebellion and literally consummates his triumph by sex with Dru over the Slayer's corpse. Two of Spike's physical identifiers -- the scar through one eyebrow and the coat he wears -- are souvenirs of the Slayers he's fought and killed: the Chinese Slayer slashes his face during their final battle and he steals the coat off the body of a black Slayer in the '70s subways of New York after he kills her. Spike responds, ultimately, to rejection by a woman by the murder of other women and by stealing their identifiers--their identities, their stories--for his own.

Even in "Fool for Love," it's clear that Spike misunderstands the Slayers he's fought as he misunderstands Buffy: he thinks that the Slayers' lives and thoughts center on him, that they are as obsessed with his Romantic conflation of sex and death as he is. He argues that they died because they didn't want to live enough; he argues that Slayers are as in love with death as he is. The Chinese Slayer tells him in Chinese, "Tell my mother I died well," before she dies, but Spike's only response is: "Sorry, love, I don't speak Chinee." Her mother is unimaginable to him, as the son of the black Slayer--Nikki Wood--is also unimaginable. Spike subordinates the stories of these women of color to his own story; he literally cannot understand the Chinese Slayer when she speaks in her own language of her own concerns.

When Robin Wood confronts Spike in S7's "Lies My Parents Told Me," fighting him in revenge for Nikki's death, Spike responds that Nikki never cared as much for her child as she did for fighting, or she wouldn't have died: he is incapable of seeing Nikki as having an emotional existence outside the fated and fatal love affair between vampire and vampire slayer. In Spike's revised and expanded version of his origins and his fight with Nikki, he adds an additional layer of justification: Once vamped, William's mother, who is defined solely by her affection for her son, expresses her "evil nature" by revealing her desire to travel the world and making incestuous advances on her son. Spike frames a mother's desires independent of her child as a betrayal of that child, equating his mother's wish for independence with her incestuous advances and with Nikki Wood's obligation to fight as a Slayer. Again, he rewrites his confrontation with Nikki into a choice that she made, rather than a duty she had to fulfill, obscuring the limitations of her life and his own responsibility for her death. His denial that Nikki's maternal feelings were as important as her role as Slayer once again erases her personhood--and it's notable that the only personal aspect of Nikki Wood we ever see is another relational role defining her, that of mother.

Robin strips his mother's coat off Spike before beginning the fight, but Spike wins and reclaims Nikki's coat as his own, as a symbol of his defeat of Robin and of his triumph over his own unpleasant memories. Spike dies in the Buffy finale but appears on Angel, initially as a discorporate ghost tormented by another ghost at Wolfram & Hart. The other ghost demonstrates his power over Spike by stripping him naked--and of course Spike establishes his regained self-mastery by imagining his coat back on.

Spike eventually regains a corporeal body, complete with long black coat. In the episode "Damage," he finally acknowledges the harm he did other people as a vampire when faced with Dana, a young Slayer who's been driven insane by a combination of childhood trauma and the memories of previous Slayers, including the ones Spike killed. Dana refutes Spike's claims from "Lies My Parents Told Me," speaking in Nikki's voice of her longing to see her young son; she strips Nikki's coat off Spike's back before torturing him. But Dana is captured by the Angel-headed Wolfram & Hart and despite Spike's new self-realization, in the next episode he's wearing the coat again.

There's a moment near the end of the series, in the antepenultimate episode "The Girl in Question," when it seems like Spike will really learn better, like he will really acknowledge and accept the self-centeredness of his conception of the world, women, and Slayers; there's a moment when he loses his leather coat. But no: there's an admiring fangirl in the text who returns an exact copy of the coat to him.

If I'm charitable, I guess I can read the return of the coat by the head of the Italian office of Wolfram & Hart as an acknowledgement that wearing the coat represents the evil Spike's done: but most of the time I just feel like the show is fucking taunting me, holding justice just out of my reach. And this is the problem, this is where I can't speak in the detached academic tone anymore, this is not where the understanding of the character breaks down but where the understanding of the text does. Because ultimately the text argues what Spike does: that it's Spike's story that counts.

And Spike goes out of the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer like he came in: wearing Nikki Wood's fucking coat.

He might as well be wearing her flayed skin.

2. The story of the vid
Excerpts from the letters I sent giandujakiss after winning the auction:

1) Aesop Rock (feat. John Darnielle) - Coffee
Fandom: BtVS/AtS
Summary: It's Nikki Wood's fucking coat.

A vid about Robin Wood and the other Slayers, mostly Nikki Wood, the First Slayer, and the Chinese Slayer, with a bit of Dana from "Damage". The untold story of the underappreciated vampire fighters.

I really want this one, but it's highly metaphorical, uses minor characters without much footage, and I'm not sure it will interest you, and I don't want to make you crazy. So I am sending it to you first, but will send you the next three in a separate letter.

This is mostly a character study of Robin Wood, with his mother brought in for depth, and then the other Slayers brought in for emphasis. It should start off with a menacing power shot of Robin Wood*, or maybe a fade-in of the First, the Chinese Slayer, and Nikki to set that up. Walkie-talkies = vampire fangs, possibly the Watcher hierarchy. Tchochke hell = Sunnydale high. Porcelain dolls = students or possibly baby slayers. New recruit with a playdoh spine = Spike. A model of mercy and might = Nikki in the mirror.

The first chorus sets up Robin as a player, a fighter, and his uneasy alliance with Buffy. The second is about his fight with Spike. Spike here should be deemphasized as much as possible, antagonist not subject: I'd love to see the iconic images of Spike leaving behind or killing the Slayers with Spike dimmed out and the focus on the Slayers.

The final verse by John Darnielle is all or almost all Dana, maybe interspliced with the Robin/Spike fight, ending on the medication line: the meds her kidnapper used to shoot up Dana and then ending on Robin's bruised face as he sags against the wall.


* "Menacing power shot" is shorthand for "I want to call back to the typical Jossverse power shot of Buffy, Angel, every Slayer, and also evoke and refute the Scary Black Man trope," all of which I could condense because GK and I have talked BtVS, media, and race before. For a different audience--like the unknown person reading this--I would have put in more explanation. In retrospect, I'm glad we ended up framing the Robin Wood power shots in a different way.

GK suggested adding Kendra and the Potentials/new Slayers to the vid and asked me to clarify whether I wanted a character study of Robin Wood or a study of female Slayer power, and I responded:

I don't know how coherent or stable my ideas were. Part of it is coming out of discussions of race and fandom and how the community deadbrowalking was named for Robin Wood -- because all the fans of color expected him to bite in s7, because the black guy always bites it. And Robin doesn't, and that's great, but he still seems to be kind of neglected in fandom, and a bit on the show, despite the potential for more. And I think the neglect is related to race and also to the way Buffy/Spike took over the show. And I'm not sure I ever thought of the vid as Robin's entire story, because it didn't include, say, Faith -- it's fine if your vid does, but that's not what I was focusing on. What I was focusing on was Robin as ambivalent and apparently threatening at first, not quite under control, not quite having the same goals as Buffy, because he wanted to do good, but he also wanted revenge. I wanted Robin as a symbol of his mother, because I can't tell you how frustrated I was, every time in S7 and in Angel S5 Spike would *put the coat back on as a symbol of self-reclamation and self-empowerment*. Because it was Nikki's coat first, and it was also the symbol of her murder, of Spike's power and coolness being appropriated from this black woman, and you have to forget that to cheer Spike on. I wanted people to watch this vid and not be able to forget that. But I didn't want it to be a vid about Spike.

So what I see linking Robin to the female Slayers, and especially the female Slayers of color, and especially the *black* female Slayers, isn't just that Nikki is his mother, but that his story, like Nikki's story, gets swept under by the master narrative of Spike's reformation. And I want the story to be uncovered and reconstructed again.

I love a lot about "Damage," and one of the specific things I love is that it refutes Spike's argument that Nikki cared more about slaying than about Robin, that it makes it clear that was Spike's projection, Spike's need to see the slayers as his enemies/lovers rather than as women with full lives, women damaged and killed by him, when Dana speaks in Nikki's voice about Robin. And I don't think you can represent that visually--it's all in the dialogue--but it's one of the things that links Robin's story to Dana's story, and the Slayers' stories, for me. (Another connection is how Robin becomes an important link to forgotten Slayer history, in himself and in his memories and in the box full of tools and shadow puppets he brings to Buffy. So I'd love to see images of that, although I don't know if they'll fit.)

Does that help any?


Then, after I saw the first draft:

Now that I see it, I feel very strongly that the first image in the vid should be the hand lighting the flame on the shadow box. [In the first draft, GK had opened the vid with a power shot of Robin Wood as I'd originally requested, with the hand lighting the flame coming second.] Because it's such a striking image--light out of darkness--and because it has meaning in canon and in our recontextualized story, the hidden brought out, the secret origin story. It should appear after a beat of darkness, and maybe even before any music--play with the timing to see what works best.

I think the vid could use a little more of the Robin/Nikki relationship: is there a scene where she bends down to kiss wee Robin's forehead or tug at his clothes, or am I imagining that? I don't mean at the beginning necessarily; just somewhere in the vid. I know the vid revolves around fight scenes, but for me that connection between Robin and Nikki hints at what the fight scenes obscure, that these Slayers had lives beyond fighting.


Everything in the vid -- the actual images, the gorgeous intercut fights, the addition of Kendra and the Potentials, the indictment of Buffy as supportive of Spike rather than other women, the implicit association of the white audience with Spike/Buffy/the vampires, the pointing up of the way we mostly got Slayers of color when they were already doomed (the Chinese Slayer, Nikki) or deliberately and explicitly can(n)on fodder (the Potentials), you know, the vid -- was all giandujakiss's. I suggested she credit herself as "Storyboard and editing" in the end credits because I wanted to make it clear that she didn't simply act as the hands for my idea; she did all the actual work of coming up with visuals to illustrate the concepts, not to mention deepening and extending the concepts by making connections I hadn't anticipated.

3. The story of the title
In the back of my head, I always had the idea of a different title for the vid than the song title, because the vid I had in mind didn't have much to do with the basic "getting morning coffee" metaphor. But I didn't have the title until pretty late in the process, at least two drafts in, when I saw how GK had used the footage of the First Slayer and the First Watchers.

This is what I wrote GK while brainstorming:

I've been trying to think of one with the right emphasis and meanings and the best I've come up with so far is "Origin Stories." I like it because it captures both canonical and recontextualized stories: The First Slayer, the dead Slayers, the origin of the Slayers, the origin of the Slayer army in the potentials, Robin's origin in his mother and his childhood, the origins of the Slayers in vampire/demon/Spike's threat. And I like it because of the general racial/political implications of "origin stories": stories of origins are stories of justifications, the various historical origin stories about Africa, the multiple of "story" indicating both that there's more than one story in history (canon) and that we're telling the stories of multiple people.


I also liked it because the title links the vid to Donna Haraway's feminist, antiracist critique of Western civilization's origin stories in Simians, Cyborgs, and Women, much of which is based on a close reading of Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis trilogy; because superheroes have origin stories,and Slayers are superheroes, and so is Robin Wood; because the plural in the title makes you think, "Whose origin? Whose story?"; because there isn't just one story, ever. Because I wanted to say, "Pay attention to whose stories don't get told."


  • 1
Yaaaay! You posted on it!

Excellent meaty discussion here: thank you for sharing it.

Thank you for reading it. :)

Excellent stuff.

I left off Buffy about the time it was revealed that the coat was Nikki's. At the time, I don't think I realized that I left because it was Nikki Wood's fucking coat, but I couldn't bear to see Robin die or, well, catch more hell.

Too beautiful a living man for that. I couldn't fangirl Buffy or Spike after that.

:)

I'm glad you liked it. :)

Robin does actually survive the end of series, but so does Spike -- and Robin doesn't get Angel guest experiences.

Yay, I don't feel stupid now, because I got most of it!

I think including Kendra and the (making of) The First Slayer made the race argument much much stronger, so kudos to both of you for working that out.
As a tangent--you know what I missed? Robin glamour shots.

That's what bugs me most about the show. Spike has tonnes and tonnes of glamour shots with Nikki's coat, and he's explicitly sold as a sexually attractive character to our main (White, American) POV character Buffy.

Whereas Robin, even though many of us fanned ourselves when he first smouldered on to the screen, never really gets the same camera-lovin'. And tellingly, his sex appeal is decreased when Buffy stops flirting back with him. He is turned into the figure of (Black) male disapproving impudence, and thus ends up with the rogue slayer - Faith.

I think Faith/Robin is thoroughly hot and satisfying, but as a show that has consistently held Buffy as the higher aspirational value than Faith--in other words, if you love Buffy you are a better person than if you are attracted to Faith, implicit with all the class sexual hierarchies that implies--this definately continues the trend of the Black character never being permitted to have a sexual/romantic relationship of equality with the lead female (White) character.

Which, to go back to the original tangent, is why I miss the objectification shots, if you will. Because Black male body as bruised, broken victim, or angry, outraged antagonist (even when he is protagonist) far outweighs the portrayal of it as object of aspirational desire. And I think emphasising Robin as 'the pretty', helps the argument for putting his story on par (if not above) Spike's.

(I hope this babbling doesn't come off as critical. I loved the vid and think both of you are shiny people for having done such a good job with it.)

(Just went and watched the vid again to see it in the light of giandujakiss' wonderful storyboard breakdown, and remembered...)

One of the reason's I was a little confused about the vid's POVs was that I didn't make the connection between the Potential Slayers being on the Robin side, whom Buffy chooses Spike over. Because I read the potentials as white, middle/upper class especially since the voice of them was either Kennedy or Molly or even Dawn, and so I saw then as being more stand-ins for Buffy fangirls than anything else.

As a non-American, the lack of international diversity infuriated me, and I think I ignored any feminist commentary made by their storyline because of that. An example of intersectionality leading to me privileging one reading over the other--in this particular case, I was thinking more as an Indian than a woman.

One of the reason's I was a little confused about the vid's POVs was that I didn't make the connection between the Potential Slayers being on the Robin side, whom Buffy chooses Spike over. Because I read the potentials as white, middle/upper class especially since the voice of them was either Kennedy or Molly or even Dawn, and so I saw then as being more stand-ins for Buffy fangirls than anything else.

As a non-American, the lack of international diversity infuriated me, and I think I ignored any feminist commentary made by their storyline because of that.


aycheb and I had a... fairly involved discussion of this and related issues over at her lj. Far too long to quote all of it, but this is what I said about the Potentials:

As for the Potentials themselves, I think you're right in positing that the vid's shift to them is commentary on the show's disproportionate focus on white characters; obviously, they're also victims of white patriarchy, as we see in the Caleb shots. golexmachina has some incisive thoughts on the show's dangerous tendency toward fetishizing girls getting exploited and violated, which I've linked in my rec post. As Patricia Hill Collins says, "Depending on the context, an individual may be an oppressor, a member of an oppressed group, or simultaneously oppressor and oppressed"; I think the vid pretty explicitly characterizes the Potentials as members of that last category.

I totally agree with you re: your impression of the overwhelming upper-middle-class whiteness of the Potentials as a group, though. (aycheb's noted that of the named Potentials, the ratio is about 4:6 CoC: white; I haven't checked, but that sounds about right. There are a gazillion white extras, though. I hear the S8 comics are significantly better with respect to racial diversity among Slayers, but the thing is, the story's already different when it gets there. The story continues, but it's already changed, just as it's already changed when it gets to AtS.) Then there was Chao-Ahn having to rely on looking at pictures on flashcards in order to try to get information she needed for survival. And how she was lactose intolerant but no one understood; as you probably already know, it's a common issue for POC in the United States, since POC are much more likely to be lactose intolerant than Caucasians. Inability to communicate made the problem of survival far more potentially dangerous for Chao-Ahn than it was for the other Potentials, but the show consistently treated it as a joke: her fears and concerns can't be communicated, her voice is mostly silent, and the show doesn't treat them with the same weight as it does those of other Potentials. 'Cos foreigners are funny, especially if they're POC.

P.S. If you're interested in more meta, I've collected links to other viewers' commentaries on "Origin Stories" here at halfamoon.

Your discussion with aycheb is fascinating! I don't want to comment too directly on it, because a story--or a vid--is after all what the audience makes out of it, and I don't think the author belongs or can contribute to all discussions.

Chao-Ahn is interesting because I think that she, like Rona and Robin Wood, are partially belated attempts to deal with structural racism in the Buffyverse, and that she, like them, is not quite successful. We get her comments in her own language and in subtitles and are aware that it's a serious issue for her, and she is threatened by the very people who are supposed to be her allies, but at the same time she's treated as comic relief. Rona and Robin both survive, but Robin's historical grievances are denied rather than properly dealt with. The one Potential who gets a real personality and a real story is Amanda, who is white, and who dies. (I love Amanda, and I love the use the vid makes of her; but I also see how she fits into the pattern.)

After Spike got a soul, a lot of fandom discussion explicitly compared him to Angel and praised him for taking action rather than "brooding upon past sins." And I felt and feel really uncomfortable with this interpretation, because Spike not only didn't brood on past sins -- he didn't acknowledge them as his responsibility, except for where they affected people he cared about (i.e., Buffy). It wasn't an acceptance of the past; it was a denial of it. And in some ways the entire vid is an argument against that, but what's particularly an argument against it is the presence of the First Slayer and the Shadow Men, and especially the flashes of previous Slayers in the Dana section. GK made it a narrative point -- the past is present in Dana's memories and her present actions -- and for me that is a narrative point that is also a thematic point. "The past isn't dead; it isn't even past."

Rona and Robin both survive, but Robin's historical grievances are denied rather than properly dealt with. The one Potential who gets a real personality and a real story is Amanda, who is white, and who dies. (I love Amanda, and I love the use the vid makes of her; but I also see how she fits into the pattern.)

Word. I love Amanda, too, but I agree with you about her role.

After Spike got a soul, a lot of fandom discussion explicitly compared him to Angel and praised him for taking action rather than "brooding upon past sins." And I felt and feel really uncomfortable with this interpretation, because Spike not only didn't brood on past sins -- he didn't acknowledge them as his responsibility, except for where they affected people he cared about (i.e., Buffy). It wasn't an acceptance of the past; it was a denial of it.

This is absolutely true - we only get acknowledgement of his responsibility for his sins in "Damage," and then it's a problematic concession, for the reasons you've shown in "Origin Stories."

GK made it a narrative point -- the past is present in Dana's memories and her present actions -- and for me that is a narrative point that is also a thematic point. "The past isn't dead; it isn't even past."

TRUFAX.

Some of our betas were also confused by the presence of the white Potentials in the vid. I agree that most of them read as white and middle or upper class -- Kennedy was a particularly troubling case, since Iyari Limon (the actress) clearly *looks* Latina, but was played upper class, and while there are many wealthy, upper class Latinas in the US, they don't tend to be named "Kennedy." I wish the show had addressed that with a name change or even a single line of explanation rather than just whitewashing the actress.

I don't read the Potentials as stand-ins for fangirls: they were scared of and/or disliked Buffy for most of the season, and were openly called annoying by most of the regulars at the same time. But that doesn't change the problems with their default white, American presentation. And if there'd been shots of armies of POC Slayers, GK and I probably would have opted for them, just to emphasize the racial aspect of the critique.

But at the same time, I'm not unhappy with their inclusion. For me, the white Potentials and the black First Watchers signal (among other things) that you can benefit from one hierarchy but suffer from another; that even though race makes a significant difference in the way the narrative treats Buffy and Faith versus the way it treats Kendra, Nikki, and the unnamed Chinese Slayer, all of them--even Buffy and Faith, although I didn't want to emphasize it for purposes of the vid--are subject to sexism, and even though the First Watchers may use their status to victimize the First Slayer and through her subsequent Slayers, they, too, are caught in intersectionality's trap, forced to make difficult decisions against an overwhelming threat, whether that's vampires (in the world of the vid) or white supremacy (if you read the vid allegorically, which I don't particularly think anyone should).

(I have not run into anyone else who reads the Shadow Men that way in either the vid or the canon, and I am okay with that.)

For me, the white Potentials and the black First Watchers signal (among other things) that you can benefit from one hierarchy but suffer from another; that even though race makes a significant difference in the way the narrative treats Buffy and Faith versus the way it treats Kendra, Nikki, and the unnamed Chinese Slayer, all of them--even Buffy and Faith, although I didn't want to emphasize it for purposes of the vid--are subject to sexism, and even though the First Watchers may use their status to victimize the First Slayer and through her subsequent Slayers, they, too, are caught in intersectionality's trap, forced to make difficult decisions against an overwhelming threat, whether that's vampires (in the world of the vid) or white supremacy (if you read the vid allegorically, which I don't particularly think anyone should).

(I have not run into anyone else who reads the Shadow Men that way in either the vid or the canon, and I am okay with that.)


Hey, this is a great reading of the First Watchers and the decisions they have to make. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Hee. I have an entire allegorical reading picked up from skywardprodigal's reading of SGA's Wraiths as really, really white, in which the vampires/demons are the really, really white people (so white they burn up rather than sunburn) on the top of the racial hierarchy and so the entire vid is about poc and white women collaborating against and sometimes complicit with the patriarchy/white supremacy framed as the ur-vampires/the First/Caleb. But that is an afterthought rather than an origin story.

I have an entire allegorical reading picked up from skywardprodigal's reading of SGA's Wraiths as really, really white, in which the vampires/demons are the really, really white people (so white they burn up rather than sunburn) on the top of the racial hierarchy and so the entire vid is about poc and white women collaborating against and sometimes complicit with the patriarchy/white supremacy framed as the ur-vampires/the First/Caleb.

I love that reading of the Wraith. It makes SGA a tiny bit more palatable for me. Maybe. skywardprodigal talked about "vampires that literally appropriate the life blood and physical totems (power) of women of color" in her rec post for "Origin Stories," which struck a chord with me, as does your reading here.

Here via ticketsonmyself's post on halfamoon

even though the First Watchers may use their status to victimize the First Slayer and through her subsequent Slayers, they, too, are caught in intersectionality's trap, forced to make difficult decisions against an overwhelming threat

That's a good point, personally I've always read the canon depiction as Buffy being initially contemptuous of the Shadowmen, angry at them on behalf of that girl and herself as that girl's current incarnation, but after seeing the vision accepting that they might have been right or at least, as you put it, forced like her to make difficult decisions against an overwhelming threat.

He initial response is similar (in a more serious way) to her reaction to Giles in WttH "Why can't you people leave me alone." Her later more accepting attitude parallels her acceptance of her 'duty.' One of the things I like about GiD is that in that sense it re-capitulates Buffy's personal origin story and thus implicitly generalizes it. Thinking about the Shadowmen in terms of intersectionality or at least current ideas on white supremacy is a little counterintuitive. I'm a geneticist so the Shadowmen being portrayed as African tends to make me think of African origin theories; there were no white people then (except for the bloody Guardian - gnashes teeth).


Thinking about the Shadowmen in terms of intersectionality or at least current ideas on white supremacy is a little counterintuitive. I'm a geneticist so the Shadowmen being portrayed as African tends to make me think of African origin theories; there were no white people then (except for the bloody Guardian - gnashes teeth).

That part is more of a meta-commentary than canonical analysis: It's dependent on looking at how the depictions of the Shadow Men fit into racist depictions of black men in American popular culture (and the answer is: Uncomfortably well, despite what are clearly attempts to mitigate this).

These are really excellent points! I love this vid (see my rec post on halfamoon) and I agree with everything you've said here.

GK says the show had a few Robin glamor shots, but they didn't end up suiting the vid's narrative; there was one in the first draft she had to swap out because it didn't work once she decided to fade from child Robin's face to adult Robin's. I think the closest thing we have remaining is the swell of his arms and his confident walk before we go into the Slayers.

I am not sure if I agree with you about Robin's relationship with Faith, although I am still working through white blindness and defensiveness of my favorite show and of Buffy, so -- I may think differently tomorrow! When Robin and Faith hooked up, Faith was actually the more successful Slayer -- Buffy had been rejected by the Potentials and her friends, Faith had managed to bond with the Potentials and carry out a successful mission, and Faith was on an upswing in her life and aspirations, coming off Angel a hero and a success story. When she first meets Buffy and Spike in the graveyard, attacks Spike, and is attacked by Buffy, her response is, "Wait, are you the bad Slayer now? Does that mean I'm the good Slayer?"

Metatextually, I think Mutant Enemy was well aware of how popular and much beloved Faith was, and I remember considerable discussion of a Faith spin-off at the time. So giving Robin a connection to her seemed more like creating a possibility of a guest spot on a Faith spin-off in the future than like palming him off on someone second-hand. I also thinking backing off on the Buffy/Robin storyline emphasized that Robin's grudge against Spike was a matter of justice and familial vengeance, not simply sexual jealousy. (GK actually discarded some clip possibilities in the vid because she didn't want to create a sexual jealousy reading -- she wanted to keep Nikki as the subject of the Spike/Wood conflict.)

On the other hand, a lot of the time black men *do* tend to get cast as the white girl's best friend (hi, Veronica Mars), apparently because they're safely asexual in the sidekick context. So I can certainly see where you're coming from.


When Robin and Faith hooked up, Faith was actually the more successful Slayer -- Buffy had been rejected by the Potentials and her friends, Faith had managed to bond with the Potentials and carry out a successful mission, and Faith was on an upswing in her life and aspirations, coming off Angel a hero and a success story. When she first meets Buffy and Spike in the graveyard, attacks Spike, and is attacked by Buffy, her response is, "Wait, are you the bad Slayer now? Does that mean I'm the good Slayer?"

I kept thinking about what Faith said in the graveyard while I was watching "Origin Stories" myself. These are some excellent points.

I also thinking backing off on the Buffy/Robin storyline emphasized that Robin's grudge against Spike was a matter of justice and familial vengeance, not simply sexual jealousy. (GK actually discarded some clip possibilities in the vid because she didn't want to create a sexual jealousy reading -- she wanted to keep Nikki as the subject of the Spike/Wood conflict.)

I never even thought of a sexual jealousy reading - to me, it seemed obvious from the show that Robin immediately hopped on the justice / familial vengeance wagon as soon as he recognized who Spike was. Good job keeping Nikki as the focus of their conflict, especially in this context; anything else would have detracted from the vid's message.

This is a great post, and (as before) I'm reccing it in halfamoon. *thumbs up à la Robin*

Thank you, and thank you for collecting all the discussions! They've been fascinating.

(Deleted comment)
You're very welcome! I'm so glad that part resonated for you.

I just saw this via the current Carnival and WOC.

Brilliant analysis.

I am so annoyed with myself for not making that deep connection between the First Slayer and Nikki and Robin, as well as some other connections.

Many thanks.

Love, C.

found you by way of Racialicious

“In Spike’s revised and expanded version of his origins and his fight with Nikki, he adds an additional layer of justification: Once vamped, William’s mother, who is defined solely by her affection for her son, expresses her “evil nature” by revealing her desire to travel the world and making incestuous advances on her son.”

Just a note of clarification: Nikki Wood was never turned into a vampire. The First took on her form (as it can take the form of all dead people) and appeared to Robin Wood. So Spike wasn’t involved in that portion at all.

I'm really appreciating this conversation - as a huge Joss Whedon dork, I love any conversation that delves deeper into the world, especially any racial/sexual/gender critiques and analyses.

Re: found you by way of Racialicious

I got hung up on that same thing; but I think that sentence refers to Spike's mother when he turned her, not to Nikki Wood. So Spike is projecting his own mother's perceived selfishness onto Nikki.

Re: found you by way of Racialicious

omg, you're totally right - i completely misread that sentence. thanks!

I had never given the racial narratives in Buffy much thought, aside from the overwhelming lack of POC characters. This has given me a lot to chew on, in particular that assumed association between white viewership and Buffy/Spike/Scoobies. Thank you so much for writing it.

So, this is rather late, but I was just showing this to a friend of mine, and I was thinking that what I liked about the title is that (in one reading) it's a kind of rebuke to the idea that we as fans can just screen out/discard/treat as gratuitous violence against and oppression of women or POC in the stories we love. Rather, that violence and oppression is essential to those stories; it lies at the heart of it, the foundation of so many heroes' subjectivity in one way or another. The origin story of so many of our precious heroes is a story we shouldn't celebrate.

Ok, I've only gotten through half of this post (so far), but I just had to comment on this:
You say "And Spike goes out of the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer like he came in: wearing Nikki Wood's fucking coat", but he doesn't, does he? I mean "there's an admiring fangirl in the text who returns an exact copy of the coat to him", meaning it's not truly Nikki's coat, right? Maybe it looks the same, but ultimately it's not which fits with Spikes character development rather well (IMHO) in that he may seem the same, yet inside, in a way that perhaps nobody will see, but that is deeply important anyway, he is different, a cleaner copy of himself, if you will.

Why is the cleaner copy of himself represented by a duplica of a trophy he obtained through murder?

Sweet Charity Vid: "Origin Stories" (BtVS/AtS)

User giandujakiss referenced to your post from Sweet Charity Vid: "Origin Stories" (BtVS/AtS) saying: [...] re Slayer / Angel

Summary: It's Nikki Wood's fucking coat.

Formats: 640 x 480 .avi (67.8 MB), 480 x 360 .wmv (36.5 MB), 320 x 240 .wmv (15.4 MB)
Length: 3:49

Download: Monsters from the Vids

Download from Sendspace: The .avi version is here. The large .wmv is here and the small .wmv is here.



Streaming: Blip, or embedded:



Password: slayer


Notes: Storyboard and editing by . Commissioned and conceived by for Sweet Charity.

Thanks so much to , , , , and for your feedback and encouragement.

Comments would be lovely.

ETA: has posted additional commentary on the thinking behind the vid here [...]

30 Days of Buffy: Day Twenty-Five - Favorite Fanwork

User eleusis_walks referenced to your post from 30 Days of Buffy: Day Twenty-Five - Favorite Fanwork saying: [...] y, at the very least. has posted her own thoughts on the video (and on Nikki Wood's coat) here [...]

I wandered over here from a post by eleusis walks about favorite fanwork. I haven't seen the vid yet but I have managed to read your comments and I am looking at this in a different way:

If I'm charitable, I guess I can read the return of the coat by the head of the Italian office of Wolfram & Hart as an acknowledgement that wearing the coat represents the evil Spike's done: but most of the time I just feel like the show is fucking taunting me, holding justice just out of my reach. And this is the problem, this is where I can't speak in the detached academic tone anymore, this is not where the understanding of the character breaks down but where the understanding of the text does. Because ultimately the text argues what Spike does: that it's Spike's story that counts.

-- SPEAK ON IT! I found this very interesting because I am a black African girl who absotively adores BtVS/AtS and I kinda accept the inherent racism in both shows like one accepts it in most shows. Although, "Restless" is almost unwatchable for me because of the First Slayer/Buffy exchange. I hate the fact that she would need a freaking translator = Tara, to speak to her own fucking Slayer ancestor. I don't know. It makes for some uncomfortable viewing.

-- "Lies My Parents Told Me" is one of the few episodes in Season 7 that was enjoyable to me. One of the thing that makes it super fascinating for me is that eve nafter all these years, I still wish Robin succeeds. And I like Spike! But that episode makes one appreciate just how unforgivable Spike's elevated status in the Slayer's life would be to Robin. And makes one question Buffy's judgment or character that she would just allow it in the first place.

-- I was wondering if you'd watched "The Wire"? That's the only show I believe handles the race issue with any sense of sensitivity and equality.


  • 1
?

Log in